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[Fwd: Re: E-M:/ Another perspective ...]



Title:

Dear all,

"Our government was formed on principles of liberty, but our society is held together by an even more basic tenet of what represents acceptable conduct between people."

Dear Sarah,

You have a very difficult job as an MDA apologist and I certainly do not envy you.  This high minded quote in the defense of MDA behavior must be laughed at to prevent crying at the irony of the use of it in defense of organization you represent.  I and Praxis has been extensively kept from the freedoms you claim you are defending, we apparently do not agree on what constitutes acceptable conduct either, on several levels.  The MDA, despite supportive lip service has also allowed for employee behavior that has helped to repress biological control technology in general and Praxis in particular that would allow for safer and more sustainable non oil dependent agricultural practices in the State of Michigan.

When after years of disparaging and repressing our work, when it proved successful like the implementation of our school IPM product the Academy Biotool Kit TM at Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit efforts were made by some MDA employees to take credit for the successful use of our product, this violates an even more basic tenant of what represents acceptable conduct between people. The many verbalizations by senior and middle MDA management of "hope for the future" the end of hostility and promises of "working together" and then later overtly and covertly sabotaging sale and marketing opportunities for our many Biotool Kit TM products, including fly and odor control has been particularly disturbing.  A fundamental betrayal of the trust MDA requested of us, as Michigan company and lifelong Michigan residents.  Precisely how many times is the public supposed to turn the other cheek to MDA violations of trust.

While I cannot directly defend the actions of this elderly farmer there are always two sides to any story. In my experience with MDA it is possible that problems are being stonewalled or ignored, sometimes for years. Could the poor treatment of some Michigan residents by some MDA employees push people past their limits?  I believe that it is not only possible but that it is an event that occurs far to frequently.

Misrepresenting of facts and interference with contract by some MDA, MSU, MSUE employees is something Praxis has experienced, identified and dutifully reported  for more than fifteen (15) years now, although it was very hard to see at first, we did not want to believe it, and luckily for MDA most people still do not.  We been given many promises of noninterference by senior and middle management that are regularly violated by field staff on a continuing basis as you should be aware.


Frankly, it has been a terrible experience for us and our family.  Economically we have had our heads held under water with instructions; breath deeply.  This has been done by so many State of Michigan employees, so often, we are forced to ask if it is policy.  Sadly, we think these individuals are often using ambiguous authority to harm our family farm enterprise and to keep non-pesticide pest management products and services from a public that is very interested in employing them.  More than 85% of Michigan residents when polled expressed an interest in pesticide use reduction.
Truthfully our experience with MDA bears almost no resemblance to the information outlined in the defensive apologist document below but it is well written enough so that should sway some individuals that have yet to deal with MDA on a large number of different issues.  By the way it has been several years now and I have yet to obtain from you Ms. Linsmier a single copy of the newspaper clippings you promised me generated by the MDA press release from Mr. Wyant in support of the Michigan Biocontrol Industry developed for pollution prevention week.

It took seventy one (71) requests over a period of eleven years to get put on a list of vendors of non-pesticide pest management Michigan and eventually onto the MDA website. It would be difficult to defend that timeline and behavior as the determined and fair cooperation and working for change as desribed in the document below.

Sincerely,


Samuel M. DeFazio
Praxis
2723 116th Ave
Allegan, MI  49010       616-673-2793


Sara Linsmeier wrote:
This perspective and information comes from the deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Environmental Stewardship Division, which answers the Right to Farm hotline, and MDA Director Dan Wyant:
 

The recent story of a southern Michigan man charged with making obscene phone calls to state employees on a Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA)-run hotline has raised many questions regarding the role of state government as it communicates with the public. Lost in the coverage of this case is the true heart of the matter: while citizens must be encouraged to express their opinions - and even their frustrations - state workers should not be the target of obscenities, intimidation or threats of violence; and state government cannot ignore its obligation to protect the personal safety of its valued workers.
 
The state agriculture department is deeply committed to identifying, promoting and ensuring farming practices that protect the environment. Many innovative Michigan agriculture pollution prevention programs have achieved significant results and are now used by other states as models. Furthermore, MDA has worked hard to make strides in addressing the issues that accompany changes in farming practices and increased rural population densities, especially as they relate to livestock operations. It is important to note that protecting and enhancing our air, soil and water quality is the very foundation for the success and viability of the state's food and agriculture industries.
 
This commitment to preserving our natural resources is also why MDA developed a hotline to allow citizens to report concerns and suspected farming violations. Ultimately, the hotline gives residents a way to voice concerns and file complaints, and helps alert MDA to potential environmental problems in the countryside. This complaint response mechanism helps ensure Michigan's vital agriculture industry operates in harmony with our precious natural resources. Aided by the use of this hotline, the vast majority of complaints are resolved and conflicts between farm and non-farm neighbors are effectively abated.
 
MDA strongly supports inclusive government and has a true dedication to help Michigan citizens resolve problems. We work hard to specifically establish and maintain communication links that allow people to conveniently share their thoughts and concerns. We understand there will be frustration at times and are certainly not unaccustomed to occasional outbursts or "colorful" language from callers.
 
Over the course of days, weeks and months, an individual repeatedly made dozens and dozens of phone calls to the hotline. His complaints were handled according to Michigan's laws and regulations, and our staff clearly explained that the farm in question is under enforcement action by the state Department of Environmental Quality to correct its environmental problems, including discharges and odor. In spite of this legal corrective action, the frequency and intensity of the calls continued. While some of the tamer examples made published accounts, the majority were extremely obscene and vulgar and, in some cases, threatening. Numerous proactive attempts were made by MDA's program managers and supervisors to stem the issue, repeatedly requesting the individual to refrain from this abusive behavior that was extremely unsettling to Department staff.
 
Unfortunately, there comes a point when lines are clearly crossed and we must act to ensure the safety of our valued employees.  When it comes to the safety of the people who work hard for us every day, we have an obligation to err on the side of caution. Frustration is understandable, but basic rules of interpersonal conduct must apply. MDA did the responsible thing by reporting the incidents to local law enforcement. Our only goal was simply to stop the vulgar and harassing behavior. However, the Michigan State Police investigated, and found something serious and credible enough to send it to the Ingham County Prosecutor's office. The Prosecutor's Office investigated, and found something concerning and credible enough that it brought charges.
 
It has been suggested that this issue is a question of government impinging on an individual's free speech. As the agency offering the hotline that encourages Michigan residents to call and share their concerns, it should be clear that MDA strongly and actively supports that constitutionally-protected right.
 
But rights also carry with them some basic responsibilities. All of us, from top-ranking government officials to every private citizen in the state, are responsible for what we say. Our government was formed on principles of liberty, but our society is held together by an even more basic tenet of what represents acceptable conduct between people.
 
The hotline remains open, and we continue to encourage Michigan residents with questions, concerns or complaints about farming operations to contact MDA to share those with us to follow up on. We ask only that callers please remember to respect their fellow citizens.
 

*********************************
Gordon Wenk
Michigan Department of Agriculture
Environmental Stewardship Division
PO Box 30017, Lansing, Michigan 48909
Phone: 517.241.1964  Fax 517.335.3131
email:
wenkg@michigan.gov
visit our web site www.michigan.gov/mda